Whether the peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland decide to remain or leave the E.U. there will be negotiations inside and outside the Kingdom involving organisations great and small. But to negotiate with strength, control and authority there will need to be a much clearer set of objectives than have currently been defined and this will require a significant quality of leadership. After all, everyone I meet, who voted in the previous referendum on the Common Market, had no intention of it becoming what it is today; the responsibility for this outcome lies with the politicians (in government and opposition) who let it happen AND the failure of our democratic system to control them and keep them to the outcome for which we had voted.
To date, the campaigns for In and Out have been chaotic and negative and for many of us achieved one significant result – that the current crop of politicians and influencers can not be trusted to handle the consequences of any result the referendum might bring.
When coaching Directors and MBA students I find a common problem when analysing their negotiations. It is the inordinate amount of time spent on negative argumentative behaviour, when negotiations is about the possible. The more time wasted in arguing about what is not possible, probable, permissible or needed (what we do not want ), the less time there is for the possible and predictable way ahead (what we want that is possible). The negative, fear tactics are more in line with PPI selling than the task of shedding more light on the critical issues that have to be weighed up by the intelligent electorate who will be making the decision.
It is the confusion between strategy and objective that highlights the leadership problem. The Referendum hustings are beset with politicians looking for media opportunities to “sell” themselves to their parties, constituencies, and funders in the hope they may get further up their particular hierarchy. They use the present opportunity as a personal strategy to gain attention. However, the Referendum is only a strategy to provide a clue as to where we want to go. European Union Membership is only a strategy to help us achieve what we want as a Nation. What we want as a nation has yet to be defined, but at least we may be able to define what we do not want. Staying with the status quo may mean that we as a nation no longer want leadership, but prefer drift.
The parties with whom we will have to negotiate are all watching and listening. Our politicians may not realise it, but they are already in the early stages of the post referendum negotiations, and structuring expectations in a way that may not be helpful to us, but helpful to those with whom we will have to deal.
We need to toughen up.